King driven to continueToyota comedy fest success

Comedian Alan King knows a successful venture when he sees one.

“We had 154 comics and they all got paid,” King joked in summarizing the Toyota Comedy Festival, the nation’s largest comedy event, which culminated Saturday night in New York with a live broadcast on HBO.

King, who executive produced the festival with veteran jazz promoter George Wein, was delighted with his first foray into live event production and began planning next year’s festival on Monday.

The event featured more than 50 shows in a 10-day period, drawing as many as 120,000 spectators and industry executives scouting new talent. They ranged from free performances in parks, homeless shelters, hospitals and senior centers to $ 100-per-ticket galas benefiting the anti-gang group Increase the Peace as well as the showbiz group Women in Film and Television. There was also an earlier mini-festival in Philadelphia.

“We figure we just about broke even,” King said from his Manhattan production office, adding that he wouldn’t have exact figures until a staff meeting Thursday.

He said he hoped the festival’s relationship with Toyota, which sponsored the event, would continue, and anticipated that changes in next year’s festival would occur on a marketing and logistics level.

“We want to have as many venues, but not spread them around in as many different houses,” King said. “Also, I’m going to get the shows together earlier , so I can sell them to tourist groups. There are bus tours that package transportation, accommodations and theater tickets. The people I’ve talked to in those areas tell me they can guarantee us as much as 5,000 to 8,000 people next year.”

In addition, he is considering expanding the festival to Florida, Chicago and Boston.

“I got a hell of an education to break even,” King said. “I’ve done TV and film producing, but nothing like this. The only thing is now I have to figure out all this bookkeeping. I never went to high school, so I can’t add.”